, Volume 138, Issue 7, pp 763-773
Date: 25 Apr 2010

Potential for evolutionary change in the seasonal timing of germination in sea beet (Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima) mediated by seed dormancy

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In sea beet (Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima), germination occurs in autumn or spring and is mediated by dormancy which can be released by cold or dry periods. Environmental change such as current climate change may require evolutionary response in seasonal timing. Here, we explore the potential for such evolutionary change. Seed dormancy was studied in a composite population based on seeds from all over the species range in France together with several generations of reciprocal crosses. We found high, repeatable variability for dormancy rate among individuals under greenhouse conditions and confirmed its relevance for germination phenology in the field. Our data fitted best with an exclusively maternal determination of the dormancy phenotype. Narrow-sense heritability, h² ≈ 0.5 in the composite population and ≈0.4 in the original local populations, was such that rapid evolutionary change in the relative proportions of autumn and spring germination may be possible.